The rock we are battered against.
The public health hill hardest to take.
The “precious”, gripped ever tighter in our hands no matter the consequences.
We wants it, the “precious”.*
OK, what on earth could I be referring to?. Well, pick your metaphor or I’m sure you could come up with a few of your own. What I am referring to is:
Denial of the need for adequate sleep.
Denial of the need for circadian rhythm health.
We don’t like being accountable. I sure don’t. It’s so boring and frustrating. Aren’t we born to be free? As a society, we’ve had to learn the hard lessons about money. Now we are having to learn the hard lessons about food choices and weight health (and no, I don’t mean the simple calories-in-calories-out stuff). Barely visible yet on the public radar are the hard lessons we will face about chronic under-sleeping and chronic circadian rhythm disruption.
When it comes to weight health, think of all the blogs and comments and tweets out there. I have seen countless posts and comments from people willing to turn their whole eating pattern on its head. (I have.) Willing to learn and chase the smallest details. (I have.) Willing to spend hour upon hour tracking various people’s opinions and the latest commentary, insights and research. (I do.) Many put time and effort into being more active or engaging in a deliberate exercise program. People talk about which medications might interfere with weight health. Some pursue unusual techniques that are like grasping at straws. There are countless ways people take measures aimed at improving their ability to have and hold their chosen target weight. Many times a lot of time, effort and loss of personal freedom is involved.
In all this, how often is a goal of adequate sleep and normalised circadian patterns targeted or achieved?
How much of all the other stuff we are doing is only necessary because of the chronic sleep/circadian issues?
In other words, what are we throwing under the bus in our attachment (sometimes fierce attachment) to keeping short sleeping hours and eating/sleeping/waking in disordered, non-rhythmic patterns? One type of cost is the health impact from the sleep/circadian issues themselves. This is a huge field of study and I won’t try to review it here. A number of studies have linked sleep deprivation and circadian disruption with a tendency to gain weight. (You can see some of this under the category “Sleep Heals” in the sidebar.)
The second type of cost is what we do to try to cope with the effects of the sleep disruption – instead of sleeping! Just as an example, what if most of your tendency to gain weight would resolve if you just got well into a program of regular adequate sleep and a regular circadian patterns of sleep and meal timing? How much less burden might there be from all the total things you do now that are for the purpose of helping you control your weight? For example, research suggests that you would likely have some improvement in your ability to handle carbohydrates. Research also suggests you would likely have less of a desire for sweets or reward foods.
If you have been chronically low on sleep, the benefits of getting regular adequate sleep are not going to be clear in the first weeks. In fact, there is a confusing phenomenon whereby people who have really been driving themselves and then get a night or two of unlimited sleep can suddenly feel much worse as the adrenalin levels fall and the body pushes you towards going into a “repair and recovery” mode of increased sleep for a while. This is very often mis-interpreted. People take this phenomenon, which is really an expression of the body’s desperation for sleep, as an excuse justifying their high-adrenalin habits.
The heart of the matter is time. We want more time. I don’t know of any other topic in weight control that can make so many people respond as if they are personally under threat. In terms of emotional response, this topic is even worse than that terrible and much dreaded horrific topic – breakfast.
Of course, the topic of breakfast and skimped/skipped meals ultimately also involves time and time pressures for many people. (See the page “Restrict/Rebound” under Key Keys above.)
So, what are you “throwing under the bus” instead of turning the computer off and getting to bed? I’ll be asking myself the same question more often.
*Lord of The Rings